By Rob Roper
In a video interview with VPRIG, Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford), who is co-chair of the legislative Climate Caucus, promised in reference to a question about the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and other “green” priorities, “While we’re in a pause in terms of actually advancing any legislation at the moment, we are still talking and thinking about the ways that we can come out of this at a full sprint.”
It’s debatable that GWSA was ever good policy (we would argue it is not) but, following an economic shut down bringing about massive unemployment, it makes less sense now than ever. Coming out at a “full sprint” to pass this law is in the current economic situation is dangerously delusional.
In her VPIRG interview, Copeland-Hanzas called the COVID-19 response a “practice session” for the GWSA. The way we’re dealing with this pandemic is, to the minds of her and her colleagues, similar to how we should deal with climate change. Indeed, the GWSA is in many ways a less drastic but still harmful version of the COVID-19 economic shutdown. Its goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by eliminating swaths of economic activities that rely on fossil fuels through restrictive regulation or outright bans. Turn off the economic switch. The only difference is with the GWSA, the plan is to leave it off forever.
Copeland-Hanzas goes on to say that when federal emergency relief dollars flow into Vermont in response to the COVID-19 crisis, they should be spent, “in ways that are advantageous to the climate as opposed to investing them in the same of fossil fuel rut that we’ve been in for the last hundred something years … projects like weatherizing homes and projects building out EV infrastructure — charging infrastructure — projects like accomplishing ‘complete streets’ so that you can be a bicyclist or pedestrian along the roadway.” I’m not sure that with small businesses such as restaurants and Main Street shops desperately in need of help and state obligations to education, pensions, the state colleges under increasing financial pressure that new “investments” in bike paths are what Vermonters will be screaming for.
The world has changed since the COVID-19 economic shutdown. The mindset of these Climate Caucus legislators hasn’t.